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Agile Computing Authors: Liz McMillan, Elizabeth White, Srinivasan Sundara Rajan, Darren Anstee, Pat Romanski

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Challenges and Solutions for the Health Care Industry in Cloud Computing

Community Cloud Case Studies

The health care sector represents one of the most important and growing industry in terms of support from Information Technology. In several countries, including the US, health care spending in IT is at the top of the IT industry. The following are some of the challenges faced by the industry worldwide in general and the US in particular.

Challenge #1: Single Truth of Customer data, electronic medical records (EMR) and health information exchanges (HIE). A patient information needs to be true and unique across the globe and across transactions

Challenge #2: Applications subject to unpredictable bursting in thework load for reasons beyond control like epidemic spread and natural disasters.

Challenge #3: Large data volumes and processing needs. Scans, X-ray, real-time monitoring information and extensive analysis of the medical conditions. A modest 100-bed hospital will generate approximately 60GB of new digital content per-bed per year, requiring an additional six terabytes of storage space annually.

Challenge #4: Common legal compliance needs across nations, HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act), EU Directives

Cloud Computing will help the health care industry in solving these challenges, as explained in the following sections.

Cloud in Health Care Industry Master Data Management

  • Cloud is probably the first viable option to support Master Data Management of Health care information to support single truth of data
  • Cloud Storage will be a common repository accessible to several providers across the globe to avoid data redundancy and duplication.
  • Community Clouds and easily accessible public clouds (Amazon EC2, Google) enable common storage of clinical data from various providers.
  • Cloud Federation will support the transfer or EMR and HIE across multiple clouds.
  • Verizon has announced a new service that will make medical records available in the cloud. Called the Verizon Health Information Exchange, the service aims to make it easier for hospitals, doctors' offices and other health care centers to access and share medical records.
  • GE Centricity Advance is a new software-as-a-service offering that includes integrated e-medical records, practice management applications, and a patient portal. The software is aimed at the 500,000 physicians in small U.S. practices with 15 or fewer doctors

Cloud in Health Care Industry Dynamic Scaling

  • The health care industry is prone to sudden bursts in system usage, due to the seasonal fluctuations like influenza or viral or other epidemics; the situation could go further unpredictable due to natural disasters.
  • Cloud provides the ideal solution for handling dynamic workload s. A key benefit of cloud computing is the ability to add and remove capacity as and when it is required. This is often referred to as elastic scale. Being able to add and remove this capacity can dramatically reduce the total cost of ownership.
  • Amazon EC2 provides out-of-the-box support for elasticity and auto scaling with multiple components.
  • Auto scaling allows you to automatically scale your Amazon EC2 capacity up or down according to conditions that you define.
  • In Windows Azure, auto scaling is achieved by changing the instance count in the service configuration. Increasing the instance count will cause Windows Azure to start new instances

Cloud Supporting Health Care Industry Storage

The massive amount of data storage and predicted growth patterns in clinical data along with the legal needs for archival and disaster recovery coupled with massive processing needs for analysis of real time data, puts most private hospital data centers unable to scale up to the needs of future growth coupled with unpredictable burst in data conditions

  • Cloud enables utilization of a new data storage paradigm in the form of NoSQL databases, and implementation like BigTable.
  • BigTable is a distributed storage system for managing structured data that is designed to scale to a very large size: petabytes of data across thousands of commodity servers. Many projects at Google store data in BigTable
  • Amazon Elastic Block Store (EBS) provides block-level storage volumes for use with Amazon EC2 instances
  • Amazon EBS allows you to create storage volumes from 1 GB to 1 TB that can be mounted as devices by Amazon EC2 instances. Multiple volumes can be mounted to the same instance.
  • Amazon EBS volumes are designed to be highly available and reliable. Amazon EBS volume data is replicated across multiple servers in an Availability Zone to prevent the loss of data from the failure of any single component.
  • The health care industry is producing massive amounts of multimodal data.
  • Medical imaging procedures are becoming increasingly popular each year with more than millions of CT scans performed per year
  • The need for parallel processing is apparent for mining these massive multimodal data sets, which can range anywhere from tens of gigabytes, to terabytes or even petabytes.
  • Amazon Elastic MapReduce is a web service that enables businesses, researchers, data analysts, and developers to easily and cost-effectively process vast amounts of data.
  • Windows Azure supports a Worker role is used for generalized development, and may perform background processing for a web role.

Cloud and Healthcare Industry Compliance

  • Legal Compliances and Procedural Compliances are inevitable and time bound. There will not be any tolerance on non compliance
  • Building, maintaining and modifying existing software is costly and time-consuming especially for small players
  • SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) provides a viable alternative for small health care providers to quickly get up to the speed.
  • GE is using a Software-as-a-Service option for an online repository of information on 500,000 global suppliers.
  • Adoption of SaaS will provide a common platform for performing correct analysis , procedures and legal compliance for medical companies and hospitals

Summary
Like other industries, health care industry is looking for technology not only for cost cutting but also for business capability needs and Cloud Computing provides a perfect platform We find the adoption is rising with the cross collaboration of Cloud Computing with the healthcare industry, I recently received an invitation about value proposition of Cloud Computing in biotech and medical device industries, from Southern California Biomedical Council (SoCalBio).

More Stories By Srinivasan Sundara Rajan

Highly passionate about utilizing Digital Technologies to enable next generation enterprise. Believes in enterprise transformation through the Natives (Cloud Native & Mobile Native).

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